BARCLAYS PREMIER LEAGUE
SATURDAY 15th AUGUST, 2015
TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR 2(2) STOKE CITY 2(0)
Chadli, 45 (+2)
Arnautovic, 78 (pen)
Referee:- Robert Madley
Assistants:- M. Perry & D. Eaton
Fourth official:- M. Heywood
Spurs (4-2-3-1):- Lloris (Capt.); Walker, Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Davies; Dier, Mason (sub Bentaleb, 69); Dembele, Eriksen, Chadli; Kane (sub Lamela, 64)
Subs not used:- Vorm; Rose, Trippier; Alli, Carroll
Booked:- Walker(foul on Arnautovic), Davies (foul on Walters)
Stoke (4-2-3-1):- Butland; Johnson, Cameron, Muniesa, Pieters; Van Ginkel (sub Ireland, 59), Whelan (Capt.); Walters (sub Joselu, 59), Afellay, Arnautovic (sub Adam, 91); Diouf
Subs not used:- Given; Wollscheid; Sidwell; Crouch
Booked:- Whelan (foul on Dier), Muniesa (foul on Dier)
Spurs blow it all away
I wrote in my preview that this was just the sort of game Spurs needed to win if they really wanted to improve upon last season's fifth place. I travelled to the game truly anticipating any of the three possible outcomes. Even when Spurs go two up, we know that we need three to feel secure, and of course that was the end result today.
Take nothing away from Mark Hughes and Stoke. They went in at half-time two down, and on the face of it, you'd expect Spurs to secure their first win of the season. They did start the second half brightly, with goalkeeper Butland kept busy in the early stages, but Hughes substituted boldly, and urged his men to attack. From his point of view he was desperate not to lose his first two games.
Ultimately, Stoke and their fans celebrated their come-back and a draw like a win. Had it not been for several very good close range saves by Hugo Lloris, Stoke might indeed have gone away with all three points. Spurs might have been moping, and their fans certainly treated the loss of a two goal lead as a disgrace, booing their team off the pitch at the end of their first home game.
In the second half, Spurs became too predictable. Kane was taken off, apparently suffering a knock to his ankle, judging by the ice pack he wore on the bench. He was replaced by Lamela, who I have supported ardently in the face of a lot of negativity towards him by many Spurs fans. Today, like last week at Old Trafford, Lamela added nothing. As always, he was positioned on the right, but he is so predictable (as are the whole team) because he is never going to go round his full back.
Kyle Walker was about the only player who showed the ability and desire to take the ball round an opponent.
The bottom line is that Spurs didn't manage to get out of their half anywhere near enough in the latter stages of the game.
White Hart Lane was just about packed out, and bathed in sunshine, full of anticipation.
Interchangeability seemed to be key to both sides, as Dembele was seen in the middle and on the left, whereas, he was supposed to be on the right. The presence of Chadli and Eriksen in different locations must have confused the defence. Similarly, Walters and Diouf switched places at times. Whelan played behind Van Ginkel, who showed more support to his front men. Afellay was central, whilst danger man Arnautovic played on the left. For the most part, Kyle Walker handled the wing-man very well, but he did take an early booking which restricted his ability to challenge as hard as he might have liked.
Eriksen latched onto a loose header after 5 minutes and tested Butland with his shot, winning a corner. Dier was fouled on the edge of the Stoke area, and Eriksen took the kick, which again was saved by Butland at the cost of a corner.
Davies made a good run down the left channel for Alderweireld's long pass, but the left back hit his cross well over the target.
Lloris actually made a rare error with a short attempted clearance that fell to Stoke, with Diouf hitting a shot which was blocked and cleared by the Spurs defence.
Spurs won a corner after 17 minutes with a neat move down the right. Eriksen fed Walker ahead of him, before Walker cut the ball back for Mason, whose right foot shot was deflected out of play for a corner. Eriksen swung in the corner from the south-east corner, and Eric Dier rose at the near post to head home. It was Dier who had scored our first goal of last season too (at West Ham).
After 31 minutes, Kane and Chadli worked a good move down the left channel. Kane finally got ahead of Chadli, but he was offside, before he fired goalward. Kane was soon offside again, receiving this time from Dier.
Eriksen put Chadli in the clear with a great ball over the top, but Chadli just over-hit the ball enough to give Butland time to gather the ball.
Arnautovic got the ball into the Spurs area under pressure from defenders, but still hit a shot across goal, which passed two feet in front of the far post. Stoke then had an attack following a mis-placed Walker pass. The ball was crossed from the right and Diouf had a header from close range, which Lloris collected, thankful to be in the right place at the right time!
As we entered added time, Mason had a good effort saved and cleared by Butland, after a good ball by Harry Kane. Kane was again involved in a creative role hitting a good ball for Ben Davies who made good ground towards the bye-line, hitting a cross deep across the goalmouth which was volleyed home by Chadli.
All was well in Spurs world at half-time. They were quite bright at the start of the second half too, with Eriksen's right footed effort stretching Butland, before Kyle Walker made good ground to pick up an excellent ball from Alderweireld. Kyle hit a low cross, but Butland stretched to clear that too.
Butland then made a close range save from Kane, after Chadli's ball from the left.
Stoke then started to get more and more possession, and chances. firstly Pieters crossed from the left and Walters' header was just wide at the far post. Mason did have a shot at the other end, receiving Dier's pass on the right side, but Hughes then made a double substitution of Ireland for Van Ginkel, and Joselu for Walters.
Almost immediately, Ireland was providing for Arnautovic, who forced a save by Lloris in the centre of his goal. After another Ireland cross, Lloris made another excellent close range save from Diouf's header.
Harry Kane didn't seem to hobble off, but he was then replaced by Lamela, with Chadli seeking to impose some muscle in the middle. He hardly saw the ball in the remaining time.
Dembele did win the ball in midfield and had a right footed shot parried by Butland, with Lamela's attempted follow-up being blocked.
Alderweireld had been having another competent and confident game, but he irresponsibly fouled Joselu inside the area, as the Stoke player got goal side of him near the bye-line. Referee Robert Madley had no hesitation pointing to the spot, and Arnautovic confidently planted the ball well to the right of Lloris.
Within five minutes it was 2-2, when Ireland crossed from the left channel, and Diouf headed home from close range. Even Hugo couldn't save us this time!
All the best chances were going Stoke's way now, and perhaps Spurs should feel happy they held onto a point. They went closest through Diouf again, but as full time beckoned, the visitors slowed the game down through Butland, and captain Whelan beckoning one of his players to go down injured. Kyle Walker and Pieters were also involved in a touch line spat as Spurs sought a winner. They didn't really get anywhere near goal in the time remaining.
Leicester beat West Ham today and go top of the table. They will be tricky opposition for us next week. Then we have Everton at home. If we go into the International break without a win on the board, I suspect there will be some twitching in the boardroom.
The signing of Clinton N'Jie was confirmed today, but there are a number of things wrong with our game at the moment. These include a lack of penetration; inability to round players; lack of surprise and variety in our game; perhaps even a lack of the level of desire required to succeed in the Premier League.
I knew at the start of the season we would not do any better than last season. To be honest, on current form and performance, I fear we are capable of losing to any Premier League opponent at home or away. A result is desperately needed next week.
On the plus side, I have had an excellent day socially, meeting many friends. We are not bottom of the league, and (at least at this moment) we are still above Arsenal!
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